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Written by jelo singson
Symbol for Dissatisfaction and Emptiness
The single biggest irony and least obvious symbol in the novel is the very concept of The American Dream, which the novel satirizes. The American Dream is a symbol for dissatisfaction and emptiness. After all the time and energy that Rojack spends on chasing after it and achieving not just one but several different iterations of The Dream he is left wanting—bored to tears and contemplating suicide. The Dream has let him down in spectacular fashion because previously the pursuit of it was his whole raison d’être. Having achieved The Dream Rojack is now at a great existential crisis asking a very himself two very difficult questions: “Why am I not happy/fulfilled?” And “What do I do now?”
Symbol for Death and Isolation
One of the strangest realizations that Rojack has is the association he makes between wealth, death and isolation. He lives with a strange and highly polarized outlook upon wealth. Clearly Rojack has an obsession with the creation of wealth, after all, the comfort and the upward social mobility that comes with a sizable paycheck is what it’s all about. When he reaches the pinnacle of his wealth however he realizes that vast wealth also brings with it a very different set of problems and a very real sense of loneliness as he cannot distinguish who keep company with him because they truly enjoy his company or if they’re simply trying to get something out of him. Wealth also brings with it an immense sense of boredom as there is very little by way of human challenges that wealth cannot solve. Wealth becomes symbolic of death as for him as it is a dead end and, in the example of Barney Kelly, a reason for the slow death of his humanity.
Symbol of Freedom and Meaning
Rojack knows that he can only push his luck so far and he knows that eventually his crimes will catch up with him so he plans his escape to Guatemala. He wins it big at the casino and gets away with his crimes, free from punishment even richer than before. His single-minded pursuit after his trail of carnage is to get out of America and make it to Guatemala, symbolic of freedom for Rojack and with that freedom a new set of challenges that he hopes will give him a new meaning and purpose to his life.
Symbol for Deceit
The choices of professions that Stephen Rojack pursue after his military exploits are very interesting in that they are all tied together by a single, unifying theme: all of them are excellent platforms for deceit. This is quite obvious in his stint as a politician as the work is typically associated with dishonesty and corruption. His time as a philosophy professor and a television host holds no additional moral ascendency than his political career however as both fields provide him with an opportunity to manipulate people through the intentional giving of questionable information—a talent that Rojack seemed to have honed considerably when he is interrogated by the police for the murder of his wife. These careers are symbolic of deceit or specifically the practice of dishonesty through the creation of and presentation of questionable facts in an extremely convincing way.
Symbol for Power
Violence and sex are very closely tied together in the novel. Rojack experiences a massive rush, feeling powerful and strong whenever he inflicts violence. His sexual trysts give him a similar sense of euphoria. In this regard violence and sex are symbolic of power as he can exert his power over people through these very acts.
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